Open University joins up with NASA's new moon mission

The Open University has teamed up with NASA Credit: NASA/OU

Scientists from The Open University are supporting NASA's bid to go back to the Moon.

The announcement comes on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landings on July 20th 1969.

The instrument selected by NASA is based on a mobile laboratory the OU is developing with the European Space Agency and scheduled to land near to the Moon’s south pole on a Russian spacecraft in 2025.

The OU has teamed with NASA Goddard Spaceflight Centre (alongside the European Space Agency) to build an instrument which monitor the very thin atmosphere near the surface of the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis programme.

Artemis is a long term project designed to create a habitable moonbase. It's hoped it will eventually become a staging post for manned missions to Mars.

The OU's Dr Simeon Barber is leading the team developing the new equipment, he said it would help study the moon's 'water cycle'.

Also interested in Water on the moon are the Indian Government.

They were due to launch a moon mission to explore the lunar south pole, yesterday but had to abandon the plan less than an hour before take-off.The Chandrayaan-2 mission was called off when a "technical snag" was observed in the 640-ton launch-vehicle system.

Chandrayaan, the word for “moon craft” in Sanskrit, is designed for a soft landing on the far side of the moon and to send a rover to explore water deposits confirmed by a previous Indian space mission.

It's part of a resurgence in global interest in lunar exploration.

Earlier this year the Chinese space agency landed a rover on the moon's surface.

It produced video of the far side of the moon. The pictures showed the Jade Rabbit 2 rover and the Chang'e 4 spacecraft that transported it on the first soft landing on the far side of the moon, which always faces away from Earth.

Dr Mahesh Anand, The OU's Reader in Planetary Science and Exploration, pioneered the discovery of water in Moon rocks, he said:

“I think discoveries made in the last five years have made it much more likely that we will see humans going to the Moon for extended periods of time in the not too distant future. There is definitely a global demand for this as many more powers enter the space race.”